Up Late with Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty

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From Goodreads.com “It begins in Toronto, in the years after the smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide. Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: she was one of the original scientists who developed the drug. With the help of an ex-government agent and an imaginary, drug-induced doctor, Lyda sets out to find the other three survivors of the five who made the Numinous in a quest to set things right. A mind-bending and violent chase across Canada and the US, Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty is a marvelous mix of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, and perhaps a bit of Peter Watts’s Starfish: a last chance to save civilization, or die trying.”

Daryl Gregory, an author located in State College, attended the Saturday morning author’s breakfast at our 2013 PCTELA conference. If you’ve ever lived in a college town, the first chapter of this book will perfectly capture what you see on a regular basis.  The descriptions are spot-on and, quite frankly, hilarious.

This long-anticipated novel has a brilliant concept with strong, believable characters and a fast-paced plot. I would say it is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Also, there are many witty metaphors and thought-provoking discussions about free will, religion, and drugs.  I would say this science-fiction novel set in the near future is not terribly far-fetched.  In fact, in the book, Gregory made up an idea of an app to find a homeless shelter, and that app just appeared in real life.  

One of my favorite characters in this book is the guardian angel Dr. Gloria, who helps Lyda work through her past and her present relationships. But I’m also enamored with Vinnie, who keeps a herd of tiny buffalo in his apartment. The precision of the language and the originality of the plot make this a must-read for everyone.

Some favorite quotes from the book:

  • “The human egg is a Mrs. Bennet, desperate to marry off her daughters…It is a truth universally acknowledged that a sperm must be in want of a matching strand of DNA.”
  • “A BS in any neuroscience without a master’s or PhD was a three-legged dog of a degree: pitiable, adorable, and capable of inspiring applause when it did anything for you at all.”
  • “Look, you can’t think of a person like it’s one thing, one ‘I’ that decides everything. The brain is a collective, a huge number of all these thinking modules. It doesn’tmake a decision, it arrives at one.”

~posted by Kate, VP for Secondary PCTELA

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Up Late with Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty

Top 5 Literary Ways to Procrastinate

Welcome to Friday afternoon, where all you really want to do is take a book out to the yard and read on a blanket.  Unfortunately, you’re still at work…so spend some time thinking about reading with these literary lists:

Happy Friday!

posted by Kate, PCTELA VP for Secondary Schools

Top 5 Literary Ways to Procrastinate

Up Late with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl

From Goodreads.com: “A coming-of-age tale of fanfiction, family, and first love. Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…. But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. 

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?”


 

This is one of those page turners that you devour in all one sitting, where you just want to read one more chapter, turn one more page, to find out if everything turns out OK for Cath.  Rainbow Rowell has the gift of creating characters who remind me of my students–witty, clever, vulnerable, strong, human, and ultimately, real. 

Some of the passages in the book are supremely true: “In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.)”  And others make me laugh aloud and wish I was as witty as her characters: “How do you not like the Internet? That’s like saying, ‘I don’t like things that are convenient. And easy. I don’t like having access to all of mankind’s recorded discoveries at my fingertips. I don’t like light. And knowledge.”

This book reminded me of many of my students who read and write fanfiction. It was lovely to see a respectable tribute to the genre of fanfic/slash fic. If you enjoy this book, try reading Eleanor and Park, another remarkable novel.  Rowell even has an adult fiction book, Attachments, which is equally un-put-down-able. 

posted by Kate, PCTELA VP Secondary Schools (k1a9t7e5 @ gmail.com)

 

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Up Late with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl

Up Late with Veronica Roth’s Divergent!

 A student of Jennie’s was awesome enough to write this Monday’s review of Divergent. Thanks, Mallory!

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Tris Prior has waited her whole life for the day she gets to choose her faction, and home, for the rest of her life. But when she takes the test she discovers that she does not easily fit into one of the five factions. She is labeled as Divergent, but must keep it a secret as it is considered an anomaly in her seemingly perfect world. Through her new faction she faces struggles and people that either want to help her of kill her. Along the way she meets Four, a secretive initiation leader that catches Tris’s eye. He helps her see the flaws in the world around her, flaws that force Tris to make a choice far harder than any she’s had to make before. By the end, Tris knows little about who to trust and wonders how one choice could possibly transform her life as much as it does.
 
Action –packed and thrilling, Divergent starts with a fast pace that continues to the very end. The action never stops for even a second and Roth keeps you on your toes the whole time. Tris is a strong female lead and throughout the novel she relies little on others for help. Her character development is immense and she nearly transforms by the end. Four and Tris’s relationship grows and develops and takes a unique turn, as many of her relationships do. There are many surprises along the way that turn the plot down new and unexpected paths. Readers looking for a new type of dystopia will devour Divergent and the rest of the books in the trilogy.
Up Late with Veronica Roth’s Divergent!

Friday Five: The Top Five Vampire Novels That You Don’t Have To Defend As “Reading For Your Students”

So, as a High School English Teacher, I am still asked about the Twilight series.  This often comes from my students, and my standard response is that I thought the ratio of “teen romance” and “vampire action” would be a little more “vampire action” than it turned out to be.  That all said, I enjoyed the series and anytime you can read something your students are reading, it is a win in my book (pun intended).  As a fan of the genre as well as the classic horror movies they inspired, I present to you:

The Top Five Vampire Novels That You Don’t Have To Defend As “Reading For Your Students”

Dracula – by Bram Stoker

Each year, when I teach A Christmas Carol, I tell my students that although many know the story, I doubt any of them have read the original text.  For many people, I think this is the case for Dracula as well.  Published in 1897, it was by no means the first writings on vampires, which date back to the early 1700’s.  Not immediately successfully until the film versions appeared, which then immediately launched the genre.  Now regarded as a classic and written in epistolary form, it is a collection of diary, journal, and newspaper entries.  As with many novels, it has elements that still could not be presented on film due to content.  When fall hits and October approaches, think about getting your hands on a copy and opening it up…you won’t be disappointed.

 

I Am Legend – by Richard Matheson

Many have seen the recent Will Smith film, where the antagonists are portrayed more as zombies who only come out a night.  Before that, it was a Charlton Heston film, The Omega Man.  Before that, it was a Vincent Price film, The Last Man on Earth.  Many might not know that before that, it was the 1954 novel, I Am Legend.  There is no mistaking the creatures as vampires and our hero, Robert Neville, must try to figure out the “cure”.  Vampirism is presented as a disease to be treated and cured, which is unique to the genre.  Trust me, if you have only seen the recent film, you don’t know the novel.

 

Let The Right One In – by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Set in the 1980’s and translated from its native Sweden, it tells the story of a teenage boy who is the torment of bullies.  Soon, a new girl moves into his apartment complex, who doesn’t know what a Rubik’s Cube is yet can solve it immediately, and only comes out a night.  The proper order is to read the book, then watch the Swedish version of the film, then the American remake.  All are excellent, and nuanced differently in their mood and tone.

 

‘Salem’s Lot – by Steven King

I will admit I came to Mr. King later in life (I am now making up for lost time)…if fact, I only read this novel about five years ago.  Peter Benchley, in writing Jaws, was intrigued by reports of the 1916 shark attacks off the New Jersey coast.  The idea of what would happen if a rogue shark came to a small beach town and didn’t leave.  ‘Salem’s Lot is very similar.  The idea of what would happen if a vampire bought the biggest house in town, setup “shop”, and didn’t leave.  It is a classic ghost story that will terrify you.  Bonus read: Find one of the anniversary editions that contains the sequel short story “One For The Road”…completely unsettling and wicked good.

 

The Radleys – by Matt Haig

Suburban, Modern, Plain English family.  Abstaining vampires.  Something happens to disrupt their secret and the safety of their children.  If vampires did exist and were among us, they would not be the Cullens or those in the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) world, they would be The Radleys.  Simply a great read.

 

Until next time…

 

Written by Jonathan – Communications Director

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Friday Five: The Top Five Vampire Novels That You Don’t Have To Defend As “Reading For Your Students”

Up Late with Andrew Smith’s Winger

From Goodreads.com: “Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.”

I took my class to the school library to choose books, and our librarian hands me this book and says, I bet you can’t get through the first three pages without laughing out loud.  I took the book skeptically, but he was dead on: I laughed aloud within two.  Ryan’s voice is wry, compelling, and at times, heartbreaking.  After I read this (staying up way too late when I should have been sleeping–or grading) I went and bought three more copies for my classroom.  I have a few rugby players in class and they argued over who got to read it first, so I had to make sure I had some spares. My non-rugby players also enjoyed the read.

This was a perfect book for many of my tenth graders, but because of the prolific f-bombs, may not be great for some students who are not ready for explicit language.  The storyline also has mature themes: I cried like a baby at the ending and was utterly devastated to learn of the heartbreaking trauma Ryan experienced. 

I think one of the reasons I loved this book so much was the sensitivity Ryan exhibited–here’s a young man with feelings and friendships and frustrations. He also happens to be a rugby player at a private school who is trying to navigate being a friend, being a teenager, being a son, and being a (potential) boyfriend.  All of the minor characters seemed fleshed out and real as well. 

I also just discovered there will be a second book in this series, which will come out in January 2015, where we will see Ryan in his senior year.  I know I’ll be sure to check that book out before my librarian has to recommend it to me.Image

Written by Kate, VP Secondary Schools, PCTELA k1a9t7e5 @ gmail.com

Up Late with Andrew Smith’s Winger

Up Late Reading Kristen Kittscher’s The Wig in the Window

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Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward). At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets! But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something—and they’re determined to find out what it is.

Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive? – Goodreads

First, let me say that Kristen has written an awesome debut middle-grade novel. I am super excited that this is the first in a series of Young and Yang mystery novels. Growing up, my grandmother had the entire Nancy Drew mystery series…and guess what? I devoured every single one of them. Although I had read a number of other MG mysteries since, none gave me the feeling I had when reading Nancy Drew (twists, turns, super-suspense!) UNTIL I read The Wig in the Window.

There is just so much to love about this book! Kittscher has created two well-developed, quirky characters that I want to learn more about. Both young sleuths struggle through typical middle-school drama (friendship issues, annoying parents, crazy teachers), that all young readers can identify with. The dialogue between the two friends rings true and is absolutely hilarious. I actually found myself lol-ing at times! This story of friendship and courage is one that readers of all ages will enjoy. Definitely check this one out!

P.S. I love the cleverly titled chapters…(Wigging Out, Stranger Danger, Amazing Grace, etc.).

Up Late Reading Kristen Kittscher’s The Wig in the Window